Starlink Is An Ocean Of Gold

Casey Handmer teaches us why SpaceX needs Starlink:

There are only few trillion dollar industries in existence: energy, high speed transport, communications, IT, healthcare, agriculture, government, defense. Despite common misconceptions, space mining, lunar water, and space-based solar power are not viable businesses. Elon has a play in energy with Tesla, but only communications provides a reliable, deep market for satellites and launch.

Elon Musk’s first space-related idea was to spend $80m on a philanthropic mission to grow a plant on a Mars lander. Building a Mars city will cost maybe 100,000 times as much. Starlink is Elon’s main bet to deliver the ocean of gold needed to philanthropically build a self-sustaining city on Mars.

Some of Musk’s ideas, like the cybertruck, seem ill-conceived. Nobody I know who owns a truck, and I know lots of people who own trucks, would buy this monstrosity. Casey walks through the physics and the economics of a cloud of satellites to cover the earth with internet access. Starlink is not some marijuana induced dream. Casey’s calculations estimate a middle of the road cost of $0.003/GB.

The SEA-WE-ME 4 is a major submarine cable running from France to Singapore, commissioned in 2005. It is capable of transmitting 1.28Tb/s, and cost about $500m to deploy. If it operates for 10 years equivalent 100% capacity, with a 100% overhead for capital costs, then the price per bit works out to be $0.02/GB. Transatlantic cables are shorter and a bit cheaper, but the undersea cable is just one entity in a long line of people who need money to deliver data. The middle of the road estimate for Starlink is 8 times cheaper, all in, than just the undersea cable.

This is the best thing I’ve read about space in years. Highly recommended.

via Om Malik